Fund-raising sites offer new options to musicians

Fri May 14, 2010 11:26pm EDT
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By Glenn Peoples

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - As record labels embrace new platforms to create direct-to-fan releases, they're changing how the industry thinks of websites usually associated with unsigned or emerging artists.

Two recent examples stand out. U.K.-based Atlantic Records artist Natty is using Pledge Music to finance the release of an EP, while indie Kill Rock Stars is using to raise funds for the release of a vinyl boxed set featuring the collected works of Swiss female post-punk group Kleenex.

The fan-funded release of albums is hardly a new idea. Marillion backed the creation of its 2001 album "Anoraknophobia" by amassing 12,674 preorders. In 2008, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule raised $75,000 in just six weeks by offering "gifts" for contributions ranging from $10 to $10,000. ArtistShare has hosted fan-funded projects since its launch in 2003. And startups Sellaband and Slicethepie have given the unknown and unsigned a way to raise money to record and market albums.

But new platforms like Kickstarter and Pledge, which both launched last year, are helping expand the fan-funded model beyond the early adopters and do-it-yourself crowd.


Kickstarter offers artists and fans a conditional purchasing system under which an artist establishes a fund-raising goal for a project and then solicits contribution pledges from fans. The artist collects the funds and manufactures a product only if the goal is reached. Although similar sites exist, Kickstarter has become a favored resource of authors, filmmakers and designers.

A month after launching in April 2009, Kickstarter campaigns had raised $60,000, according to co-founder Yancey Strickler, formerly editor-in-chief of eMusic. By the end of its first year, the site had raised $1.5 million and logged its 1,000th successfully funded project. It acts only as a fund-raising platform and leaves the marketing of projects to artists.

That fit the bill for Kill Rock Stars and its four-LP Kleenex boxed set. The label released the band's collected works on CD in 2001, but fans have been asking for a vinyl version of the set, according to label head Portia Sabin.   Continued...